What Is PERMA Model? The PERMA Model In A Nutshell

The PERMA model was created by American psychologist and educator Martin Seligman. The PERMA model is a framework for happiness and well-being based on positive psychology through five elements: positive emotion, engagement, positive relationships, meaning, and accomplishment.

Understanding the PERMA model

In 1998, Seligman used his inaugural address as the new president of the American Psychological Association to call for a paradigm shift in psychology.

Until that point, the industry focused on relieving human suffering through the understanding and treatment of mental health disorders and maladaptive behaviors.

However, reducing the suffering of someone with poor mental health is not the same as wellbeing – after all, these individuals want to be able to thrive instead of merely existing.

In response, Seligman shifted the focus to what was good and positive in life with a simple model defining the elements of a meaningful existence.

This approach is now known as positive psychology, where the ultimate goal is to make life worth living by defining, quantifying, and creating wellbeing in individuals. 

The five elements of the PERMA model

To synthesize the positive psychology approach into a theory, Seligman defined five elements. 

Each element is intrinsically motivating and contributes to wellbeing, and each should be pursued for its own sake and measured independently.

Following is a look at the five elements which also comprise the PERMA acronym.

1 – Positive emotion (P) 

Positive emotions are a prime indicator of a flourishing individual and happily, these can be cultivated or learned.

Examples include joy, love, compassion, fulfillment, hope, interest, amusement, and gratitude. 

It’s important to note that positive emotion is more nuanced than simply feeling happy or flashing a great smile.

For example, a person may feel happy after accepting their tortured past while looking to the future with renewed hope.

2 – Engagement (E) 

Most people have experienced getting lost in a good book or movie and losing all sense of time.

Engagement is very similar to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow, where the individual lives in the present moment by focusing completely on a moderately difficult task. 

Engagement can be encouraged by the individual participating in activities they love or remaining in the present moment using a technique such as mindfulness.

Positive psychology also suggests spending time in nature and identifying one’s own character strengths.

3 – Positive relationships (R)

Human beings have a natural desire to connect with others and be part of a tribe, group, organization, school, or circle.

In fact, social connections have been found to play a role in preventing cognitive decline and increasing physical health.

Well-being can also be increased through the strengthening or maintaining of intimate relationships.

This may involve simple actions like sharing good news or responding enthusiastically to the presence of others.

4 – Meaning (M)

Many psychologists believe happiness and wellbeing result from a creative and meaningful life, and not from the blind pursuit of material wealth and pleasure.

Seligman defined meaning as life purpose, where the individual devotes their life to something greater than themselves.

Meaning is guided by personal values and as a result, will be different for everyone.

For instance, an environmentalist may find meaning by volunteering at an organization that plants trees and conserves animals. Many others find meaning in their religious beliefs or professions.

Wherever meaning is found, however, those with a sense of purpose live longer and have greater life satisfaction.

5 – Accomplishment (A) 

The PERMA model suggests a sense of accomplishment results when individual works toward their goals and achieves mastery, competence, or success. 

Accomplishment should be pursued for its own sake and should not be seen as a means to an end.

Indeed, many individuals will find achieving their goals more satisfying because of the sometimes unpleasant process of working toward something.

Goals can be set in any context, including in the workplace, on the sports field, or in the development of a craft, hobby, or interest.

Perma model advantages and disadvantages


The Perma model is very effective framework as it helps reframe the psychological status of an individual, and instead of focusing on the illness, it focuses on the positive side.

As it incentivizes a positive emotional state through the use of a few elements, from positive emotion to accomplishment, the Perma model can be useful to reframe problems into positive challenges.

Especially in a business environment that can be a critical skill.


The main issue of the Perma model, while it helps reframe problem into positive challenges, enabling business people to find solutions.

The Perma model doesn’t have a set of actionable steps in order to execute on this psychological reframe.

This is the main drawback of the Perma model. It tells you how to reframe a problem and get into a more positive state of mind, to tackle challenges.

But it stops there. It doesn’t give you actionable insights on how to implement these steps.

Key takeaways

  • The PERMA model is a framework for happiness and well-being based on positive psychology. It was developed by American psychologist and educator Martin Seligman.
  • Fundamental to the PERMA model is positive psychology, a relatively new domain in psychology involving the scientific study of what makes life most worth living. Positive psychology differs from traditional psychology, which tends to focus on mental illness with and maladaptive behavior.
  • The PERMA model is comprised of five elements: positive emotion, engagement, positive relationships, meaning, and accomplishment. Each element contributes to well-being, is pursued for its own sake, and is defined and measured independently of other elements.

The five elements of the PERMA model are:

The Perma model helps companies to reframe the psychology of individuals to focus on the positive side, incentivizing a positive emotional state through the use of a few elements, from positive emotion to accomplishment.

The main issue of the Perma model, while it helps reframe problems into positive challenges, enabling business people to find solutions, it doesn’t have a set of actionable steps to execute this psychological reframe.  

Connected Business Concepts

First-Principles Thinking

First-principles thinking – sometimes called reasoning from first principles – is used to reverse-engineer complex problems and encourage creativity. It involves breaking down problems into basic elements and reassembling them from the ground up. Elon Musk is among the strongest proponents of this way of thinking.

Ladder Of Inference

The ladder of inference is a conscious or subconscious thinking process where an individual moves from a fact to a decision or action. The ladder of inference was created by academic Chris Argyris to illustrate how people form and then use mental models to make decisions.

Six Thinking Hats Model

The Six Thinking Hats model was created by psychologist Edward de Bono in 1986, who noted that personality type was a key driver of how people approached problem-solving. For example, optimists view situations differently from pessimists. Analytical individuals may generate ideas that a more emotional person would not, and vice versa.

Second-Order Thinking

Second-order thinking is a means of assessing the implications of our decisions by considering future consequences. Second-order thinking is a mental model that considers all future possibilities. It encourages individuals to think outside of the box so that they can prepare for every and eventuality. It also discourages the tendency for individuals to default to the most obvious choice.

Lateral Thinking

Lateral thinking is a business strategy that involves approaching a problem from a different direction. The strategy attempts to remove traditionally formulaic and routine approaches to problem-solving by advocating creative thinking, therefore finding unconventional ways to solve a known problem. This sort of non-linear approach to problem-solving, can at times, create a big impact.

Moonshot Thinking

Moonshot thinking is an approach to innovation, and it can be applied to business or any other discipline where you target at least 10X goals. That shifts the mindset, and it empowers a team of people to look for unconventional solutions, thus starting from first principles, by leveraging on fast-paced experimentation.


The concept of cognitive biases was introduced and popularized by the work of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in 1972. Biases are seen as systematic errors and flaws that make humans deviate from the standards of rationality, thus making us inept at making good decisions under uncertainty.

Bounded Rationality

Bounded rationality is a concept attributed to Herbert Simon, an economist and political scientist interested in decision-making and how we make decisions in the real world. In fact, he believed that rather than optimizing (which was the mainstream view in the past decades) humans follow what he called satisficing.

Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Dunning-Kruger effect describes a cognitive bias where people with low ability in a task overestimate their ability to perform that task well. Consumers or businesses that do not possess the requisite knowledge make bad decisions. What’s more, knowledge gaps prevent the person or business from seeing their mistakes.

Occam’s Razor

Occam’s Razor states that one should not increase (beyond reason) the number of entities required to explain anything. All things being equal, the simplest solution is often the best one. The principle is attributed to 14th-century English theologian William of Ockham.

Mandela Effect

The Mandela effect is a phenomenon where a large group of people remembers an event differently from how it occurred. The Mandela effect was first described in relation to Fiona Broome, who believed that former South African President Nelson Mandela died in prison during the 1980s. While Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and died 23 years later, Broome remembered news coverage of his death in prison and even a speech from his widow. Of course, neither event occurred in reality. But Broome was later to discover that she was not the only one with the same recollection of events.

Crowding-Out Effect

The crowding-out effect occurs when public sector spending reduces spending in the private sector.

Bandwagon Effect

The bandwagon effect tells us that the more a belief or idea has been adopted by more people within a group, the more the individual adoption of that idea might increase within the same group. This is the psychological effect that leads to herd mentality. What is marketing can be associated with social proof.

Read Next: BiasesBounded RationalityMandela EffectDunning-Kruger

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